Apprehension and nervousness combined with an overall feeling of excitement engulfed me as I embarked on a much anticipated journey to Europe with my daughter Cedar. I have not stepped on European soil in what seems like another lifetime. A lifetime when where I slept and what I ate affected only me. Going on this trip was something that I had avoided for some time now simply because I felt unprepared and incapable of pulling off with a kid. Though the pessimistic realist in me said I was doomed for a quick flight back, the optimist fought its ground telling me a least to give it a go.
The first leg of our trip had started. All we had to do was get on the plane which I did somewhat reluctantly. If it wasn’t for the hundreds of dollars I had spent on the non-refundable ticket, I likely would have delayed this inevitable trip even longer. Upon arrival in the glorious Charles de Gualle airport the next step was to find our insanely heavy luggage that was packed with harnesses, rope, crash pad and what seemed like but didn’t feel like, the minimum amount of stuff needed for two small people.
My first plan was to take a walk around the airport so to take in the scenery, airport culture, listen to the language, and familiarize myself with the hard orange seats. When that was done, all I needed to do was call the French lady whose house we had so responsible arranged to stay at. Montreal was like a V3 warm up for the French needed for this trip but as for everything else, I felt like a five year old walking into the first day of kindergarten even though I had been to Europe numerous times before. I was about to realize that traveling abroad with a young child was something that warranted some attention to detail.
The hole in our plan was revealed. Our accommodation fell through and I quickly realized that all other affordable places with a roof such as a hostel were booked up weeks ago. I reminded myself that perhaps I had too much faith in people while a Plan B would have been a really good idea. We both yawned and walked with a sort of glaze in our eyes as jetlag was taking its effect. We wearily lugged our belongings between trains and buses until finally we landed a somewhat cheap hotel. My budget for this trip didn’t include fancy things like rental cars and especially not hotel rooms but mandatory as it was, I was about to pay for my first hotel. I felt like someone pretending to be a grown up as I handed over my 30 euro’s for a bed and roof. Well, 30 Euros was better than 130 which was the damage of a rental car. Holy cripes, welcome to France.
Years ago before climbing became my obsession, I ran through Europe solo, handling epics as they came. Roof tops littered with cats, beaches, and buses became my hostels. Being responsible now for a child and commitments, this round was already of mild stress. Somehow as I paid for this hotel and subsequently the next two, I felt as though I had to grow up in a way. Not going so far as to say Peter Pan was leaving but more that for next time, if there ever is one, Plan B, C and D were in order.
And so there we were, in a hotel. The internet was down and so any chance of sorting out my life plan was on hold. How is it that the internet became so essential that life’s necessities couldn’t be planned without it? Frustrated with how things were going and wanting to throw my computer out the window I succumbed to the sleep that weighed heavily on my eyelids. The next two days were spent weighing our options and our next location. Most people would surely have gotten out of such a predicament quickly but my ability to make decisions is at times, frustratingly slow and methodical and even slower with jet lag. The options before me included the Frankenjura, a remote area in France void of climbing or North Wales.
Craving some security and familiarity after having thrown ourselves into such a situation, I opted for the cheaper terrain of North Wales where I had years ago placed my first nut and where old friends would welcome me with warm hugs. As I went to buy a bus ticket, the cheapest method of travel around, I had unfortunately waited 6 minutes past midnight too long which means it really is the “next day” and of course, one can simply not buy tickets on the same day of travel. And so, I got tickets for the following day, spent one more night in the classy Formula 1 and fell asleep wondering what to do with our full day in France when we awoke.
Setting such a thing as an alarm clock seemed plausible yet impractical. Cedar had been waking up to play in the wee hours of the night and so we both awoke late lingering with a taste of jet lag. A potential day out in Paris was cut short to an afternoon. I thought of climbing but just getting to the gym itself involved 2 trains rides, a bus and close to 25 euro plus the cost of the gym. Going into Paris was about the same and so instead of taking advantage of the many beauties of the glamorous city we opted for the self guided day tour of the surrounding areas of Charles De Gualle airport. The magic of a child’s ability to simply enjoy life no matter what the situation was seen in Cedars face as we rode the many escalators and trains. She proudly ordered a pizza in French and after that we watched the birds that fly in and out of the train station. It didn’t matter what we weren’t seeing, besides, how can one miss what one doesn’t know exist? Free train rides, walks in the forest that surrounded the hotel area were actually kind of calming for us wearied travelers.
Hopefully I will find a gym to help prepare myself for one of the reasons I came to Europe. A few of the World cup competitions were on my agenda and while my last week in Colorado was spent packing and sorting out my home on wheels, the road runner, I failed to climb for over a week. I was stressing about my fitness level which is completely un-fun and pointless. Were these comps really that important to me? No, not really yet, I had committed to doing them and was sacrificing time spent outside on real rock to have such an invaluable experience. With the way things were going it seems inevitable that I will be going into this upcoming comp half-ass. Life seems to be throwing me elsewhere and the chances of being in tip top shape were already not in my favor. The events that were hampering my climbing life were more than bugging the little voice in my head that wanted me to do better, to do more. Yet I am familiar with this voice and its inner struggle as life doesn’t always make things simple. Like a routine play at twelve noon I struggle to shush it, calm it.
I ponder this dilemma and wonder about the upcoming days as we ride the bus north. Although our trip has had a very slow and epic start, I now look forward to seeing old friends, ocean, welsh rock and perhaps taste some grit. While the green panoramic view of France quickly passes by, Cedar and I smile at each other as our European adventure has just begun AND we were going to meet the queen.